07/24/98 - 1932 (see also VNN story# 1924)
Does Devotion Cause Madness?
USA (VNN) - by Narasimha das
I appreciate and admire the years of service performed by Harikesa Swami. He is my personal friend since 1971, and I was always inspired by his Krsna conscious enthusiasm when I used to associate with him in the 70s.
Yet I object to the GBC's misleading words in defense of Harikesa Swami's condition. To hide the absurdity of their deviation from Srila Prabhupada's order, they have once again distorted the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. These are the same people who excuse the fallen condition of their guru club members by saying that even greatest mahabhagavatas in the universe sometimes become crazy or fallen due to lust or anger. But the GBC assures us that Harikesa Swami's problems are due only to his intense devotion. Badrinarayana das wrote:
"Harikesa Swami, aged 49, has recently suffered a serious physical and mental collapse."
"It is not unusual that ISKCON leaders, when vigorously preaching Krsna consciousness even up to old age, follow the footsteps of great acaryas and tend to become aloof from bodily concerns. Consequently, leading preachers are sometimes afflicted suddenly with ailments that severely limit their ability to continue at their accustomed pace. Harikesa Maharaja's crisis resulted from an enormous overburden of work, the flare-up of many long-standing physical maladies and a fully committed attitude toward preaching. This attitude caused him to accept many more responsibilities than he could reasonably take on, especially in his weakened condition."
"... his nervous system has broken down after years of austerity, incredible pressure, and prolonged and multiple illnesses. It is understandable that the body and mind have their natural limits and he has pushed himself beyond them."
Where in the scriptures does it say that devotional austerities and a life of full devotional service causes a devotee to become incapacitated by mental and physical illness? What kind of message does this convey? It sounds like what the deprogrammers used to claim. They would say that our intense schedule of devotional practices and austerities causes our mental derangement and loss of health. Srila Prabhupada never advised devotees to neglect their health. Indeed, he often chastised devotees for being irresponsible in this regard. Srila Prabhupada was meticulous in preserving his own health.
Pure devotional service liberates one from the influence of evil planets, ghosts, mental instability, and even the most deadly diseases. Devotion to Sri Guru and Sri Krsna never causes mental or physical breakdown. There is no history of pure devotees being affected by such calamities. Pure devotees may appear to become incapacitated due to old age or disease, but these conditions are ecstatic symptoms under the supervision of the Supreme Lord's internal potency. Such conditions in a devotee are not material. Advanced devotees are never mentally deranged, even on their death bed. We saw with Srila Prabhupada that although he was emaciated beyond belief for months, his mental state was always perfectly lucid. Badrinarayana das wrote:
"Although in a troubled mental state, he has not fallen down or broken the regulative principles."
We are left to wonder why, then, is he so deeply troubled? For sincere devotees, the only cause of anxiety is offense to other Vaisnavas or inattention and offense in serving the spiritual master. If devotees avoid offenses and perform austerities only to please Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, they will never experience mental collapse or so-called "burn out." Due to their having pure minds and pure lifestyle, the physical health of devotees is generally far better than that of ordinary persons. A peaceful, clear mind is "the first installment of transcendental bliss" in the practice of Bhakti Yoga. Thus the mind of a devotee becomes increasingly powerful and clear. Badrinararayana das wrote:
"As he has helped many others over the years, now is the time for us to help him, with compassion, patience, and charity of spirit. We dearly love him, and devotees should all intensely pray for his swift recovery. However, it will be some time before he can resume his preaching work. He is regularly meeting with godbrothers and disciples and is in excellent medical care."
The best kindness shown to a diseased person is to properly diagnose his ailment and prescribe a cure. According to Lord Sri Krsna in Srimad Bhagavad-gita, austerities that ruin ones health are demonic. The body is a temple because of the indwelling Supersoul. Severe austerities done for personal power rather than for the pleasure of Lord Krsna are destructive. Srila Prabhupada says that the performer of such austerities "torture the Supersoul within. "Such austerities are dangerous for body and mind, and they lead one away from the path of pure devotion. According to Srila Rupa Gosvami, over-endeavor for mundane results is another cause of falldown. Similarly, if one accepts the post of guru or sannyasa without proper authorization and remains mentally addicted to sense gratification, he eventually falls down completely or goes insane.
Knowing Harikesa Swami's weak condition, I have suggested to him (and others) that he spend time in the sacred forests of the divine Sahyadri, where we have ashrams with facilities for his comfortable stay. Faithful pilgrims to Sahyadri Tirthas have experienced miraculous cures just by bathing in and drinking the sacred waters. The best Ayur Vedic medicines and doctors are also available there. So far, he has refused or ignored my offer, but the offer is still open. I wish him the best. His guru buddies in iskcon may only make his condition worse. They refuse to admit the actual cause of his physical and mental collapse.
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